High-end Luxury System
Here we have a screaming edge system lacking any virtual price cap. Every component in the Luxury System guide was thoughtfully scrutinized in order to offer you the most for your greenback. If the additional dough didn't bring about a justifiable performance leap, it didn't make the cut. Let's face it, almost nobody wants to choke up 150% more money to see a 3% increase in umph.
To start things off with our Luxury System we have the Asus Rampage Formula. Released under the Republic of Gamers series and constructed around Intel's x48 chipset, this motherboard is brimming with greatness and is, in our opinion, the best Intel DDR2 motherboard available today.
Asus Rampage Formula - $300
Supporting a maximum FSB frequency of 1600MHz, DDR2 1200MHz memory, 8GB of RAM and hosting 2 PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots, 2 PCI-E x1 slot, 2 PCI slots, 6 SATA II host adapters, 1 PATA host adapter, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, 6 USB 2.0 ports, 1 IEEE 1934a port and much, much more. Some features include Asus' EPU technology, AI Gear 3, AI Overclocking, COP EX and Asus' CPU Parameter Recall.
Packaged with this board comes the mandatory driver CD, a full retail copy of the game “Stalker”, detailed user manual, four SATA cables, a single PATA, FDD and 2-way Molex-to-SATA cable, break-away headers to make attaching LEDs a bit easier, a bracket with additional IEEE 1934a and USB ports, the SupremeFX II sound card, a small tunnel fan for those using water cooling and an LCD POST reader.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), this board is so feature-rich that a brief overview simply cannot present its elegance in full, so if you're interested in purchasing it, do yourself a favor and check out this review for the full scoop.
As noted above, we really wanted to keep the Luxury System from being strictly a brag box by keeping the cost to performance ratio in-check. As such, a motherboard with DDR3 RAM support was not our number one pick. However, should you want a platform which supports that technology, the Asus P5E3 Premium/WiFi-AP offers DDR3 support and is a great alternative to the Rampage Formula.
Running on a 45nm process and providing four independent cores in a single unit with a stock frequency of 2.66GHz, FSB of 1333MHz, 12MB L2 cache and SSE4 support this beast really packs a wallop. Without touching the voltages, by increasing the FSB, it isn't uncommon to see stable core overclocks of 500MHz or better, boosting the Q9450's performance into QX9770 territory. The Q9450 contains twice the amount of L2 cache and has a 166MHz lead on the Q9300 ($270) while only being about 170MHz behind than the Q9550 ($570), putting it in a sweet-spot.
Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450 - $375
These Reaper HPC modules are covered by OCZ's unique “Extended Voltage Protection”, allowing you to push them up to 2.35V and still be covered by their lifetime warranty. Taking that into consideration, with a default frequency of 1150MHz it is more than feasible to get these up around the 1200MHz mark, thus filling out the DDR2 1200MHz capabilities supported by the Rampage Formula.
OCZ Reaper HPC 4 x 1GB 1150MHz - $140
If you happen to be traveling the more expensive route of DDR3, you can expect to pay upward of $150-$300 for 2-4GB of RAM, depending greatly on the specific modules.
Note: There is only one set of 2 x 2GB DDR2 1150MHz modules currently available (OCZ Flex II) and they're packaged with husky heatspreaders that occupy two DIMM slots each, hence our selection of 4 x 1GB high speed DDR2 modules. If you have an interest in using 8GB of DDR2 RAM, you'll have to settle for DDR2 1066MHz.
Considering the fact that our chosen chipset and motherboard do not support two separate Nvidia video cards to be SLI'ed, this selection is pretty much a given. This dual-PCB and GPU juggernaut has a core clock of 700MHz, memory clock of 2100MHz, 1GB of DDR3 memory, 512-bit memory bus and is the current king of the hill among video cards - recently released GeForce GTX models included! Without hesitation, the 9800GX2 will slice its way through any game currently available, making this card a must have for any gamer or media fiend with deep pockets.
XFX GeForce 9800GX2 - $539
There are plenty of 9800GX2 flavors available with varying costs, pick the one you prefer most. We've opted for XFX's model as our high end pick as it offers higher stock core and memory clock frequencies.
Thinking outside the box, for the Luxury System sound card we recommend you pick up the HT Omega Claro Plus+. With 7.1 channels, a sample rate of 192KHz, 24-bit digital audio, an impressive SNR of 120dB, drivers that actually work, and a reportedly solid customer service team this card will serve you and serve you well.
HT Omega Claro Plus+ - $175
If by chance you prefer something a bit more mainstream, need support for the latest EAX formats, or just happen to enjoy fighting with your sound card's drivers, the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi XtremeGamer Fatal1ty might be worth a gander.
Please note, if you are just planning on using the SupremeFX II bundled with the Rampage Formula, realize that it’s not a true dedicated sound card. In reality, it’s nothing more than an expansion card lugging a Realtek HD audio controller chip. It still makes use of the Azalia HD audio integrated within the ICH9R, so if you have the cash it is likely worth purchasing an independent sound card.
Hard Disk Drive:
The VelociRaptor is the fourth-generation and latest release of Western Digital's Raptor series. Continuing the trend, the VelociRaptor has a 10,000RPM rotational speed, an average access time of 4.2ms, modest cache size of 16MB, sustained internal transfer rate of 120MB/s and an external host transfer rate of 3Gb/s. With the way this drive performs, it is borderline greedy to ask for anything more, except maybe additional storage capacity.
Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB - $300
To pick up the VelociRaptor's slack, we've chosen the Spinpoint F1 to ride shotgun. While the VelociRaptor holds down the performance front, the Spinpoint F1 fills in some rather ugly gaps where storage capacity is concerned.
Samsung's Spinpoint F1 has a spacious 1TB of storage, an access time of 8.9ms, 32MB of cache, 175MB/s sustained internal transfer rate and 3Gb/s external host transfer rate.
Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB - $179
Unfortunately, in this setup, the VelociRaptor steals just about any thunder that the Spinpoint F1 might otherwise appear to have performance-wise, although, rest assured that it's one of the top performing drives in its class.
The SHS203N is the same high quality optical drive selected for all of the builds in this guide.
This SATA Samsung drive supports all DVD formats and features a 130ms DVD-ROM access time and 110ms CD-ROM access time. It's loaded with various innovative features that enhance performance including Speed Adjustment Technology, Double OPC Technology, Tilt Actuator Compensation Technology, Magic Speed and LightScribe. The SH-S203N represents quality at an affordable price.
With ever-declining costs, Blu-ray media is becoming more practical and obtainable. The LG GGW-H20L reads virtually everything that will sit on its tray, and is capable of writing Blu-ray, DVD and CD discs. Like most new optical drives, it makes use of the SATA 1.5Gb/s interface and has access times of 180ms for BD-ROM, 210ms for HD DVD-ROM, 160ms for DVD, 180ms for DVD-RAM and 150ms for CD. Not only is this one of the cheapest Blu-ray burners available, it's also one of the fastest with maximum BD-R speeds of 6x.
LG Electronics GGW-H20L - $260
Power Supply Unit:
Although PC Power & Cooling was officially acquired by OCZ last May, this PSU is a fine example of their legendary craftsmanship. Rated for a hefty output of 750W, this behemoth has an efficiency of 83%, Active PFC, a hold up time of 16ms and 60A on a single 12V rail. The S75QB ships with all the standard cables and connectors, including six SATA, two 6-pin and two 6+2-pin cables as well as a 5 year warranty.
PC Power & Cooling S75QB - $140
As stated in the mid-range guide, there are simply too many cases on the market to isolate a single chassis and proclaim it the conqueror of all. Instead, we will highlight a few of the popular choices ranging between $100 and $150. Holding 2,500+ reviews on Newegg, the Antec Nine Hundred is apparently the most popular ATX case within the mentioned price range. Not far behind are the following cases: Thermaltake Armor Series VA8000BWS, Antec Performance One, Thermaltake Tsunami VA3000BWA and the Antec P182.
Solid case with adequate cooling - $150
At a breathtaking 30”, the Samsung SyncMaster 305T is nothing short of excellence. Displaying 16.7 million colors at a native resolution of 2560 x 1600, it has a contrast ratio of 1000:1, 6ms response time, .25mm pixel pitch, viewing angles of 178°(H) / 178°(V) and 3 year warranty. Weighing in at 26.5 lbs, the display sits atop a robust black base that allows swivel, tilt, and height adjustments.
Samsung SyncMaster 305T 30" Widescreen LCD - $1,250
Then again, if you have the cash to spare, why not go with two of these beauties (or two of the ones below)? We dig dual displays.
Not interested in a 30” display? There are some exceptional 24” alternatives, two of which are the Acer P243WAid ($390) and Asus MK241H ($540).
A $230 price tag is what rests between you and being engulfed in heavenly sound waves. The Logitech Z-5500 speaker system has a combined power of 505W, SNR of >93.5dB, 33 Hz - 20 kHz frequency response, and is so feature-dense I'll only touch the tip of what is offered.
Logitech Z-5500 5.1 505W - $230
Touting THX certified sound, onboard 5.1 digital decoding, a 10" long-throw subwoofer and tuned bass port, aluminum phase plug satellites, digital SoundTouch control panel, a wireless remote and tons more, the Z-5500 is well worth the coin if you have any interest in high quality sound.
Between the number of possible keyboard and mouse combinations in the high end price range and the various uses you could be making of this system, it’s virtually impossible to recommend a single component.
If you are going to be gaming and don't mind a wired setup, take a look at the Logitech G15 keyboard and Razer Lachesis Banshee mouse. Should this system be used for HTPC functions or if you'd prefer a nice wireless alternative, see the Logitech diNovo combo and/or the Logitech MX Air Silver mouse.
||Asus Rampage Formula
||Intel Core 2 Quad Q9450
||OCZ HPC Reaper 4x1GB DDR2 1150MHz
|| XFX GeForce 9800 GX2 PVT98UZHBU
|| HT Omega Claro Plus+
|Hard Drive 1
||Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB
|Hard Drive 2
||Samsung Spinpoint F1 1TB
||Samsung SHS203N / LG GGW-H20L
PC Power & Cooling S75QB 750W
||Samsung SyncMaster 305T 30" LCD
||Logitech Z-5500 5.1
Also check out our budget and mid-range system configurations.